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Another statewide face covering mandate in effect

Gov. Tony Evers has now declared a new public health emergency in Wisconsin, because of a recent surge in cases among young people and issued a new face coverings mandate. The Emergency Order 1 order is effective immediately, as of Sept. 22. He also issued Executive Order 90, because SARS-CoV-2 is a new disease and the long-term health impacts of COVID-19 are not fully understood. Under Sections 321.39, 323.10, 323.12 and 323.13 of the Wisconsin Statutes, Evers designated the Department of Health Services (DHS) as the lead agency to respond to the public health emergency and directed the department to take all necessary, and appropriate measures, to prevent and respond to COVID-19. Both orders are effective immediately and will expire after 60 days (Nov. 21), or with a subsequent superseding order. The governor previously declared a public health emergency under Executive Order 82, which remains in effect. “We continue to learn more about this virus, but what we do know, is that we are facing a new and dangerous phase of the COVID-19 pandemic here in Wisconsin,” said Evers. With the start of the school year, Wisconsin is seeing a surge in cases, especially among young people. In fact, 18 to 24 year olds have a case rate five times higher than any other age group. This significant increase has only occurred within the past month, and appears to be driven by in-person social gatherings. “The current surge among young people is concerning, but it is important to remember that this increase in cases is not confined to college campuses,” said DHS secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Students come to these campuses from across the state, and we worry about the effect their return from an area with a high infection rate could have on their home communities. That is why it is imperative we take action to curb transmission now – to protect residents of Wisconsin, in every corner of the state.” Wisconsin is now experiencing unprecedented, near-exponential growth of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the daily number of new cases rising from 678 Aug. 31, to 1,791  Sept. 21, a 2.6-fold increase in three weeks. “We need to remember that most respiratory viruses see their peak activity in Wisconsin, between late fall and early spring,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin’s chief medical officer and the state epidemiologist for communicable diseases. “We need to do everything we can now to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prepare for the winter. It is also why we encourage everyone to get a flu shot this year; the flu shot cannot protect you from COVID-19, but by helping protect you from the flu, it helps strengthen our COVID-10 response here in Wisconsin, by preserving hospital and testing capacity.” Emergency Order 1 states that everyone over the age of five, wear a face covering in an enclosed space, which means a confined space open to the public where individuals congregate, including, but not limited to, outdoor bars, outdoor restaurants, taxis, public transit, ride-share vehicles and outdoor park structures. A face covering means a piece of cloth or other material, that is worn to cover the nose and mouth completely, such as a bandana, a cloth face mask, a disposable or paper mask, a neck gaiter or a religious face covering. A face covering does not include face shields, mesh masks, masks with holes or openings, or masks with vents. Coverings should be worn if the individual is indoors or in an enclosed space, other than at a private residence, and if another person or persons who are not members of the individual’s household, or living unit are present in the same room or enclosed space. Face coverings are strongly recommended in all other settings, including outdoors when it is not possible to maintain physical distancing. Individuals who are otherwise required to wear a face covering may remove the face covering in the following situations: • While eating or drinking. • When communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing, and communication cannot be achieved through other means. • While obtaining a service that requires the temporary removal of the face covering, such as dental services. • While sleeping. • While swimming or on duty as a lifeguard. • While a single individual is giving a religious, political, media, educational, artistic, cultural, musical or theatrical presentation for an audience, the single speaker may remove the face covering when actively speaking. While the face covering is removed, the speaker must remain at least six feet away from all other individuals at all times. • When engaging in work where wearing a face covering would create a risk to the individual, as determined by government safety guidelines. • When necessary to confirm the individual’s identity, including when entering a bank, credit union or other financial institution. • When federal or state law or regulations prohibit wearing a face covering. In accordance with CDC guidance, the following individuals are exempt from the face covering requirement: • Children between the ages of two and five, are encouraged to wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible. The CDC does not recommend masks for children under the age of two. • Individuals who have trouble breathing. • Individuals who are unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance. • Individuals with medical conditions, intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions or other sensory sensitivities that prevent the individual from wearing a face covering. People are also asked to practice physical distancing, meaning to maintain at least six feet of distance from other individuals who are not members of their household or living unit. This order supersedes any local order that is less restrictive. Local governments may issue orders more restrictive than this order. This order is enforceable by civil forfeiture of not more than $200. “We need folks to start taking this seriously and young people especially – please stay home as much as you are able, skip heading to the bars and wear a mask whenever you go out,” said Evers. “We need your help to stop the spread of this virus and we all have to do this together.”